Canine lovers rejoice. Two of the brightest stars in the dark winter sky are the constellations Canis Major and Canis Minor, Latin for the “greater” and “lesser” dogs.  Canis Major outshines its Minor with Sirius or the ‘Dog Star’, a giant blue flame that’s twice the size of our sun.   It’s no accident that satellite radio SiriusXM is named after the night’s single brightest star.

Dogs also get coveted attention as the 11th cycle in the 12-year Chinese zodiac calendar.  The Year of the Dog rolls over again in February 2030.

A dog’s sense of smell is 20 times that of humans, so NASA used them to sniff Mars rocks to discover foreign life forms.  If NASA wanted to distinguish the VARIETY of life forms on space rocks, they would have chosen the cat whose sensitive nose has 30 variants of the protein used to detect scents.  Dogs have only nine compared to human’s two.  No wonder cats are finicky eaters and rely upon familiar scents (and marking) to conquer stress.

Feline lovers who are jealous of attention given to dogs ask, “Where is the cat in space?”

  • No cat constellations.
  • No Cat Star.
  • No Year of the Cat in the Chinese zodiac (and the legend that cat was outwitted by rat for that spot is dubious at best)

There is one space that dogs and cats share in astronomical history:  flight. 

France sent the first cat into space in 1963.  Felicette was one of 14 female cats purchased from a pet store or (more likely) community cats taken from the streets. Felicette’s temperament won her the 15-minute, 100-mile suborbital flight, but some say she was one of the few that could still fit into the capsule after so many ‘training treats’.

Félicette is immortalized as a bronze statue “perched atop Earth, gazing up toward the skies she once traveled”. The piece premiered just last year as a part of the 25th anniversary of France’s International Space University’s Master of Space Studies program.  She is the only cat to survive space flight – and that’s nothing to sniff at.

This article by Head Cat Susan Kumpf appeared in the Holiday 2020 edition of Vicinitus Haywood as “Cats in Space”